Posted on July 22, 2019
Angela Solomon is the CEO and co-founder of Jaleesa – the platform for trusted childcare. During her career as a British diplomat, she helped develop Middle Eastern strategy for the UK government and trained staff from embassies across the MENA region. Since leaving diplomacy she has founded three successful businesses, in consultancy and food and beverages. She has worked as a holiday camp animator, language teacher, personal tutor, and kids’ outdoor activity instructor. Angela’s baby – Teddy Nour, is a happy Jaleesa customer.
How did you get your business idea?
It was a Friday night in 2016 and I was supposed to go out for a girls’ night with one of my best friends. She called me to cancel because her babysitter had let her down; so instead of going out, we had dinner at her place and brainstormed the problem of trusted childcare for parents in Lebanon. A few weeks later I met Hassan Bayloun at a hackathon, and we created a prototype of the Jaleesa platform; a friend and writer – Stephanie d’Arc Taylor, was covering the hackathon for a tech news site, and together we decided to become three co-founders and validate the idea. Our first booking was on my birthday – we sent a babysitter to my friends’ apartment so they could come to the party! And from there, we kept building.
What was the main drive that pushed you to start your business?
I am inspired by the potential for businesses to have a social impact, and I believe passionately that Jaleesa is a great way to create jobs for women from all backgrounds, as well as helping parents who need our childcare service.
What was your biggest fear before starting up? How did you overcome it?
I left my job as a British diplomat to become an entrepreneur. I was at the British Embassy with my resignation email open on my desktop, and my mouse hovering over the ‘send’ key; I left with no backup, no system, and no idea how things would work out. I still have no idea how things will work out but having had the chance to work with so many amazing people, including my co-founders, the Jaleesa team, our mentors and investors, and 150 fantastic babysitters, makes me feel so grateful I took the plunge.
How do you describe your core business activity and what’s the key value you offer to your customer?
Jaleesa is a platform that connects families with trusted childcarers. Our app makes it easy for busy parents to find trained and vetted childcarers. We take the hassle out of the logistics, contracting, insurance and payment. We are a personalized service, we focus on a positive experience for parents, kids, and sitters, and our services are designed by and for women – though we also welcome bookings by Jaleesa dads, we sadly find they are still in a minority.
What are the key strategies you use to expand your business? How do you advertise your business? How do you advertise your product/service?
We are optimizing our digital marketing and offline activation within our parent communities. We also rely a lot on word of mouth from satisfied customers – so if you’ve tried us and liked us, please tell everyone you know!
What do you look for when recruiting an employee?
Team spirit, willingness to learn, and an ability to share what you know. If you have those qualities, I definitely want to work with you.
How many employees do you currently have? How do you describe your management style?
We are five full-time staff at Jaleesa. It’s a small, busy team, so we focus on the ability to self-manage. We empower each other to take the initiative within our areas of responsibility, calling on managers’ support when they need it. I try to lead by example, to listen carefully, and to be open to different ways of doing things. We have a high degree of trust in each other, and we always have each other’s back.
How do you describe yourself in 3 words?
Love this life.
What’s your favorite part of your business, and why?
I seriously love the whole thing, so I’m not sure it’s fair to choose just one part… but maybe I would pick the design of new features and systems. I love analyzing our data, coming up with ideas, modeling options, consulting customers and working on the user experience and user interface design. It always takes longer than I expect, and it’s always harder and more complicated… but the process is also full of learning and helps us build a better service.
What made you choose this type of business?
Jaleesa exists because we’re inspired by the opportunity to do good in our community. We do this by helping women work, equipping our sitters with transferable life skills (like first aid), and positively influencing the development of young kids.
We’re also in this business because there is a huge opportunity in the childcare market in the MENA region. Right now, the market is chaotic, under-regulated, and inconvenient for parents. We want to reverse that, by bringing Jaleesa’s personalized, experiential approach to support parents across the region.
If you had one piece of advice to someone just starting out, what would it be?
Coordinate and collaborate with other startups, especially those who are a bit further into their journey. We are based in BDD, surrounded by startups at all stages, and whenever it all gets too much (or if we need some friendly advice), it’s great to be able to learn from those who’ve seen it all before.
How do you balance the different aspects of your life? (well-being, family, social and professional)
Something always has to give. Right now, I’m a startup founder who just got investment and the mom of a 12-month-old baby. I am a single parent for 80% of the time as my husband is mainly based in London. So, there isn’t much time for anything beyond my current priorities of work and family. I see it as part of my job to look out for my own well-being – thankfully my Jaleesa nanny is on board with this: she helps me stay on top of things at home and makes sure I eat well! I also try to do a yoga class at least once a week, to decompress. Genuinely a crucial part of holding it all together is knowing when I need backup, I can find it – through my amazing support network of family and friends… and of course, Jaleesa’s amazing childcarers.
Women on Top Series
Berytech has partnered with the Lebanese League for Women in Business – LLWB, to create ‘Women on Top’ to highlight women entrepreneurs and executives in a series of motivational interviews about their stories, overcoming their own challenges and their entrepreneurial endeavors. Read more. The series is also highlighting successful women in sports and business.